A friend and I wanted to go on a cycling trip and were thinking about Morocco. We went to Great Canadian Travel and they helped us select and book a suitable cycling trip with Exodus Travel. We joined a dozen others, mainly English and a couple of New Zealanders. We had both English and Moroccan cycling guides, along with a support van and a four-wheel drive jeep to support us on tough terrain and change flats or perform bike repairs on the spot.
This was a mountain biking tour in the Atlas Mountains. True to its advertisement, “This trip has everything from fast single track through palm trees, to ancient hair-pinned muleteer’s routes and remote, rocky jeep tracks. On this tour you will pass through areas untouched by mass tourism, but also get a chance to interact with local people and really experience the culture of some of the indigenous Berber people who populate this area.” This was not your standard trip to the all inclusive resort. This was not your standard trip on the back packers circuit. This was physically challenging. On most days we saw no tourists and in some of the remote areas we ended up being the attraction for the locals who came to stare at us foreigners passing through on bikes. As female cyclists in Lycra, we were treated just fine.
The cycling was almost all on rocky paths, with a downward incline. It was quite an introduction for us to real mountain biking, and we all fared just fine with some great instruction from the guides. Several times there were choices between routes – steep and gnarly or easier grades and smoother. Nevertheless, we had the occasional tumble and we managed to have a great time bouncing and riding our way down the routes. We had some asphalt roads to cover, thankfully, to get between the trails and this could be both uphill or downhill. One day, as we climbed our way up a seven km hill, I eventually got in the support van, mumbling to myself I signed up for the Atlas Descent, not Atlas Ascent tour!
All meals were included with the hotels providing a basic breakfast and tasty dinners of healthy and fresh Moroccan food. Daily picnic lunch on the trail was prepared by the support crew who followed us or drove ahead to ready our lovely picnic lunch in a shady spot.
The sightseeing was tremendous, cycling through sandstone rocky outcrops and gorges of orange and reddish hues, palm tree lined oasis, and small towns with traditional Moroccan architecture. We heard the call to prayer from every mosque and saw many head there with prayer rugs. On one occasion we saw a rare nomadic family group travelling by camels. We also purchased lovely carpets, and employed our bargaining skills to the utmost to ensure good deals.
There is not a lot of mainstream sightseeing or shopping on this trip, so we also added a three day stay in Marrakesh to visit the medieval narrow and winding alleys of the medina, stay in a traditional riad, bargain in the markets for souvenirs, experience a relaxing hammam for our sore muscles and dry skin, and enjoy the evening spectacle of snake charmers, musicians, and fresh food prepared in open air tents at the main square, a UNESCO world heritage site.
A fabulous trip, though the mountain biking portions were not for the faint hearted! Exodus offers other cycling trips that stick to the paved roads. We’ll be booking our future trips through Great Canadian Travel – they made setting up the trip easy, saving us time which we then used to train in preparation for the challenge ahead. We’re looking forward to our next adventure on wheels!